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Work must be celebrated in the Church

Saturday, January 06, 2018

I sat across the breakfast table in a downtown restaurant talking to an attorney who owned a sizable law firm.  He was a leader in a large evangelical church which was familiar to me.  I had been introduced to him by a friend and we had a good conversation about what God is doing around the world through business – creating jobs and making disciples of Jesus.  Then he made this startling statement:

“I don’t see how what I do as an attorney has anything to do with what you are talking about…I don’t think I have anything to offer.”

How can that be?  What did he mean?  Bill Peel of the Center for Faith and Work states, "I believe the gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God," says Peel.1
  • Over two-thirds (70%) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
  • Almost four out of five church-goers (78%) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.
Citing these statistics and others from the Barna Group and Center for Faith and Work cooperative research, Peel states, "Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive and praiseworthy step, but more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advances God’s creation …this simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways."

Pastor Jim Mullins2 who also has business experience, suggests that all types of work, not just pastoral and missionary work should be publicly celebrated.  Their church now has a 5-minute interview each Sunday morning of people from various occupations so that they may celebrate their work and affirm its importance in bringing glory to God.  Says Mullins, “These interviews have slowly helped all of us to understand that ‘vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world,’ as Steve Garber says.”

Interview Questions at Redemption Church, Tempe, AZ

Mullins continues, “While there is some room for customization, we ask four basic questions in each interview. We repeat the same questions, because they give our congregants a weekly reminder and opportunity to reflect on their own work.

Question #1: How would you describe your work? 

"We want a snapshot of the daily life of the interviewee. This answer often builds common ground between the interviewee and others within the congregation, even if they don't work in the same field. 

Question #2: As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Gen 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:17)

"We want to ground the intrinsic value of work in the character of God and frame our work as an act of “image-bearing” (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:15). Therefore, we ask the interviewees to connect their work to some specific aspect of God’s work. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman offers six categories of God’s work that give us a helpful framework for our vocations:
  • Creative work (artists, designers, architects, etc.)
  • Providential work (entrepreneurs, janitors, civil servants, bankers, etc.)
  • Justice work (lawyers, paralegals, diplomats, supervisors, etc.)
  • Compassionate work (nurses, nonprofit directors, social workers, EMTs, etc.)
  • Revelatory work (scientists, journalists, educators, etc.)
  • Redemptive work (pastors, authors, counselors, etc.)
Question #3: How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:10-20

"Some people subconsciously think their work should always be fun and fulfilling, often assuming that the presence of pain and struggle invalidates the goodness of their work. We want them to see that, in a fallen world that is filled with sin and its effects, each occupation has unique hardships and comes with its own thorns and thistles. 

Question #4: Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mk. 10:35-45; Eph. 5:1, Rom. 12:14-21; Col. 1:24-27)

"We want to broaden the application of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Many people assume this command is mostly applied as interpersonal acts of kindness, but we try to demonstrate that love can also be indirect and systemic.”

I was teaching a college course in a Canadian college not long ago when a woman in the class made a statement to me about half way through the course.  She was a faithful believer, served on mission trips and tried to live righteously in her sizable company which she had founded and where she was the current CEO. Michelle said to me, “for the first time in my life I have come to realize that my business is my ministry.”

All of us need to do what we can to celebrate every profession, every workplace skill, every occupation and every business as that which God desires to bring glory to himself and bring people to worship Him.
1   Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read the Latest Research  ©2018 Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University

2  “The Butcher, the Baker, and the Biotech Maker”, Jim Mullins, The Gospel Coalition, October 29, 2014.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Job opportunities in BAM

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I am often asked if there are places in the world of Business as Mission (BAM) for internships, job opportunities, for those who are not true entrepreneurs or founders.  The best BAM website out there may be Business As Mission's (www.businessasmission.com) and this recent list of job opportunities will interest many of our readers.

The list includes a wide variety of skills such as fashion design, accounting, IT, web development, management, marketing, agriculture, sales, communications and more.  Check it out:

Business is a gift

Sunday, December 24, 2017

This month of December is a month for giving. We give gifts to each other; we reflect on the gift of Jesus to humanity; and we think about year-end giving to various charities.

Patrice Tsague, CEO of the Nehemiah Project proposed that business is a gift and he stated twenty reasons. If you agree, we suggest giving to help people start and grow a Kingdom business, thus creating jobs in the name of Jesus. IBEC helps do just that.

Here are 20 reasons that business is a gift:

  1. Business brings hope
  2. Business reduces crime
  3. Business reduces poverty
  4. Business reduces the threat of terrorism
  5. Business creates income
  6. Business reduces dependency
  7. Business minimizes the threat of war
  8. Business builds community
  9. Business creates wealth
  10. Business helps families
  11. Business solves problems
  12. Business creates jobs
  13. Business helps communities and churches
  14. Business advances the Gospel and funds the great commission
  15. Business can be passed on from generation to generation
  16. Business helps turn a receiver into a giver
  17. Business turns a consumer into a producer
  18. Business pays taxes
  19. Business brings dignity
  20. Business brings innovation
If you would like to support IBEC in cultivating Kingdom-building businesses, you can find more information on the IBEC website. God's blessing in 2018.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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How the Christ of Christmas stimulated Kingdom business

Sunday, December 17, 2017
How the Christ of Christmas stimulated Kingdom business

Christians look at the annual celebration of Christmas with fond memories of the incarnation of Jesus, who as the son of God came as the Savior of the world.  Such Good News is stated in and lived out throughout the New Testament. While the simple meaning of this precious time in history has been diluted with the likes of Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, colored lights, fluffy gifts, elves and other trivia, I recently turned my thinking toward the connection of the “Christ- child” with our calling to business.

It seems to me that the incarnation of Jesus in this world actually contributed to Kingdom business as we pursue it today.  Here’s how:

Jesus’ Perspective on Work, Money and Wealth

Kingdom business in North America as well as overseas (BAM) has profit and sustainability as a fundamental bottom line.  Jesus not only acknowledged, but he validated, profitable business. He worked in the ‘secular’ family building business for most of his life (Matt 13:55). Approximately 50% of Jesus’ parables were in a business setting, such as the cost accounting example of building a tower (Luke 14:28). Also, Jesus spoke clearly about worker’s wages in Luke 10:7. 

Perhaps equally important, Jesus in multiple places validated the Old Testament scriptures (Matt 5:17, Luke 24:27, 44). Those scriptures begin with Jesus and God the Father as the worker deity, with Moses speaking of the value of wealth creation (Deut 8:18), and the calling of men of wealth to fulfill the purposes of God (Abraham, Job, Solomon and others). The Old Testament is full of verses guiding business leaders (Gen. 2:15; Eccl. 9:9-10, Prov 12:11).

Many other stories and actions of Jesus support profitable and sustainable business as ordained of God and the Christ of Christmas. We start and grow businesses because Jesus ordained it and gifted people to do so.

The Values of Jesus

While it is true that Jesus provides the validation for the purpose and perspective of a Kingdom business, the values of Jesus relative to operational issues in business may be equally important. Those values are too numerous to mention here but Ken Eldred in God is at Work 1 does an admirable job of demonstrating how Biblical values are at the root of successful capitalism. Under the rubric of personal character values are – integrity, honesty/truthfulness, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, commitment/diligence, order and cleanliness and hope.  

Interpersonal relationship values of Jesus include humility, service, respect/dignity, justice/fairness, grace, compassion, forgiveness, consideration, trust, accountability and interdependence. He even lists performance values such as service, excellence, value and quality; all held high by Jesus as standards for a Kingdom business.  Kingdom businesses create jobs and the purpose of employer-employee relationships is to bring glory to God but living out the values that Jesus taught.

The Great Commandments of Jesus to love Him and our neighbor become one of the central components of the BAM bottom-line. When we create jobs, we are loving our neighbor. When we live out the values of Jesus, we are loving our neighbor and when we serve like Jesus served, we are loving our neighbor.

Jesus and Making Him Known

While it is clear that living rightly in the “here and now” is central to Jesus’ teaching, he also cared as much or more about eternal values. He desired that believers work toward helping others to become followers of Jesus. Some call that the Great Commission – the making of disciples of all nations. Ken Eldred calls it developing spiritual capital; for sure it is one of the bottom lines of Business as Mission.

The Christ of Christmas stated, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36). Again, he stated in the Sermon on the Mount, “…store up for yourselves treasurers in heaven…” (Matt 6:20). It is incumbent upon every follower of Jesus to do his or her part in making him known to an unreached world.  And this is fundamentally one of the bottom lines of a Kingdom business.

Let’s remember this month of Christmas that Jesus is the origin of work, the setter of workplace values and He wants us to make him known here and worldwide using business as the best way to do so.

1 Eldred, Ken.  God is at Work:  Transforming People and Nations through Business.  Regal Books, Ventura, CA, 2005.

Beware of unintended consequences in missional business

Sunday, December 10, 2017
Beware of unintended consequences in missional business

In September 2017, Seattle’s Amazon corporation announced its intent to open a second headquarters projected to be even larger than the one in Seattle. This set off a scramble of fifty cities trying to lure the tech giant to their ‘neck of the woods”.

But it made me wonder if these cities have considered the “Seattle experience”. Once considered a one-industry town (first gold and then Boeing and then Microsoft, before other well-known companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco made Seattle home), Seattle promoted the intentional decision of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos to build in the inner city. The result has made Seattle the fastest growing big city in the country. Amazon today at its south Lake Union core has bestowed 40,000 jobs on the city located in 33 buildings with 8.1 million square feet. Amazon owns 19% of the high-end office space in the city and has 4,000 puppy dogs registered for its headquarters buildings.

Such dominance to be sure, has its benefits. Unemployment in King County is 3.7%, well below the national average, and smaller companies have showed up in this Silicon Valley of the north. Thirty-one Fortune 500 companies have research or engineering hubs in Seattle today, bring more jobs.

But what of the unintended consequences? Sociologist Robert Merton popularized the law of unintended consequences which suggests that the actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. It’s not a complicated idea but difficult to avoid it seems, when trying to keep up with Jeff Bezos and his Amazon juggernaut.

Taxpayers in Seattle now pay hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing transportation and infrastructure upgrades such as transit and road networks, parks, utilities and housing subsidies. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities in America and rents have increased 65% in the last seven years. The city of Seattle spends $60 million annually to address the needs of the homeless. It is impossible to drive on or under freeway overpasses without seeing hundreds of tents and other homeless indicators. And the traffic conditions in this beautiful city by the sea and the mountains are going from bad to worse.

Not all of these consequences can be blamed on Amazon, but the company certainly is a gigantic factor.

Boston, Charlotte, Kansas City, Tucson, Birmingham, Kansas City and 40 others – are you sure you are ready for this?

But what about anything else? What about any activity? What about Kingdom businesses? Of course, everything else is on a much smaller scale but still the Seattle experience should cause any endeavor to “count the cost”, to do a risk analysis, to consider the unintended consequences?

Some of the unintended consequences that I have seen in Business as Mission (BAM) have been family stress when the business owner is spending 80 hours a week at the business site, or the cost of expansion and its related taxes, increased labor force and rent, or increased attention in the community from rival business interests or political antagonists. Some BAMers are cut out for a small enterprise of 5-10 employees and not capable of scaling into a much larger company and such growth results in stress and potential failure. Growth usually means a new team dynamic, new division of labor and the insertion of new skills such as marketing, financial analysis and consulting services. These are all important and good but owners need to plan for these important components in the growth of the operation.

Unintended consequences can be intended consequences if we anticipate them, plan for them, or design strategies to avoid them. The London “tube” has signs everywhere “Mind the Gap”. Here my appeal is “Mind the Consequences.”

Predictors for BAM company impact

Sunday, December 03, 2017
Predictors for BAM company impact

There is considerable interest these days in measuring the impact of Business as Mission (BAM) companies. Is the theory of BAM something that will contribute to the intended results? How are individual BAM companies doing when compared to the quadruple bottom line? What makes for success?

Researcher and economist, Steve Rundle reported at the BAM Conference in September 2017 on research which addresses these questions in part.1 He started with two hypotheses:

Hypothesis # 1: Those BAM workers who draw a salary entirely from the business will have a greater economic impact than BAM workers who are donor supported.

Hypothesis # 2: BAM workers who are donor supported will be more effective in producing spiritual fruit than their business supported peers.

The study included appropriate numbers of subjects; and controls for location, firm size and business type, etc. Interestingly, the results demonstrated that hypothesis #1 was strongly supported, however hypothesis #2 was not supported at all.

Donor supported or business supported?

One would expect that spiritual impact would be highest for donor supported BAM practitioners; after all these are primarily missionaries who are paid to produce spiritual results. So, why such evidence? What then is correlated with effectiveness, or in other words, what are the predictors of spiritual results for these BAM practitioners? The evidence suggests:
  • Accountability to a board of directors
  • A measurable intentionality for what one is trying to achieve
  • A balanced holistic theology of mission to explain why they are there
  • Being open about one’s faith and identity
  • A perspective of ‘blessing’ the people, rather than ‘converting’
Professor Rundle points out the negative correlations; meaning factors which did not produce the intended results. They were: narrow missional orientation, secretive identity, conversion focus, being wholly donor supported.

Blessers or Converters?

He also pointed to a similar study by Mark Russell2 which produced parallel findings. Russell’s categories were called “Blessers” and “Converters”. The “Blessers” typically responded that they were there to be a blessing. Bringing others to follow Jesus was important but only one aspect of a larger purpose and vision.

The “Converters” typically tried to “keep the main thing the main thing” and viewed the business as an avenue for missionaries to proclaim the gospel and produce conversions, rather than a place to integrate faith with the work.

In a similar manner to Rundle, Russell demonstrated that the “Converters” who focused on a converting orientation, were secretive about their missionary identity, and worked independently, reported far fewer incidences of evangelism (converts) than those with a blessing mentality.

Probably similar studies are necessary before concrete propositions can be made, but such evidence as this certainly is food for thought – and ACTION!

1  Steve Rundle -- Maximizing the Impact of BAM.

2  Russell, Mark. The Missional Entrepreneur. New Hope Publishers, 2010, chapter 11.

7 lessons for business entrepreneurs from the World Series

Sunday, November 26, 2017
7 lessons for business entrepreneurs from the World Series

It is a mystery to most of the world how a little-known USA sport like baseball can have as its culminating event called the “World Series”. Most everyone outside North America equates “World” with the “World Cup” of international soccer (football to them) which is truly “world”. Nevertheless, baseball remains an intriguing sport played by millions in the USA, with most citizens giving attention to its conclusion each October.

In the late-night hours of November 1, 2017 a team that almost nobody had predicted to win, defeated the favored and experienced Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game series. The Houston Astros did it despite a payroll about one-half that of the Dodgers, and just four years earlier were the laughingstock of professional baseball having lost more than 100 games in each of the three years before 2014.

I love the metaphors of the sporting world which can sometimes be useful when applying to other institutions or events closer to most of us – such as starting a business or building one to success. These traits struck me during October of this year.

1. Little things matter.
In baseball as in most things, one must give attention to details. Certainly, the Astros did when they signed Francisco Liriano in July as a left-handed reliever. Liriano was not a major player and was brought on to the team to play a small part in the bullpen. He soon observed a team that embraced him and did so many “little things right”. He only faced one batter in each of games 6 and 7 – a small but important time, place and role.

Similarly, in business, the smallest of decisions or choices can be keys to success. What if Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Batstone, had not paid attention to a newspaper article in Berkley, CA about the enslaved workers at his favorite restaurant? Such a little thing led to the Not For Sale movement which focuses on liberating those enslaved in several countries.1

2. A team has chemistry and culture.
Liriano said upon his arrival “…we have a team, a real team…it’s not everybody trying to play individually. Everyone is playing for each other and has each others’ back. The MVP (World Series Most Valuable Player) George Springer stated, “…our team believed in each other all year.” And all-star Jose Altuve noted “…a lot of diversity and good relationships between players and coaches with everybody.” Management opened up to sharing data with players. In decision after decision, as pitcher Dallas Keuchel says, “each player became a person.” A phenomenal esprit de corps developed, which was visible to all who watched. And, thus, the team – with great chemistry and culture – won the championship.

My wife’s nephew is an engineer and team leader at Google in Mountain View, CA. The campus resembles a world class resort and perks include free food from its many restaurants. "The culture is amazing. Each employee does not mind helping the other out if they are stuck. I feel it is encouraged to reach out to others,” observes one engineer. Google is consistently rated a company with an excellent culture and team chemistry.

3. They had a goal.
During the three years of 2011 – 2013 the Astros lost a total of 324 games. They essentially started from scratch in 2014 with important operational decisions. Altuve recently told ESPN, “I think I was the only one in 2011, ’12 and ’13, those 100 losses – three years in a row. It’s not easy. But I think I kind of like believed the process.” Altuve exemplifies employee engagement. The best employees will be the ones that stick with you through the good times and the bad. Success is the bottom line. The Astros had a relentless focus on results, on winning. And that meant getting to the Series through wins and winning four out of seven games once there.

Freedom businesses can be considered social enterprises because of their clear goal – to keep women and children from human slavery and to liberate as many as possible from the human trafficking industry. Such a goal is measurable and systems of accountability exist for it. All BAM businesses need goals which can be measured and for which they can be held accountable. It is a privilege for IBEC consultants to help freedom businesses.

4. Good leadership.
Jeff Luhnow joined the team in 2011 as General Manager and as an entrepreneur with an MBA. He started to modernize the organization. That began the process of becoming a cutting-edge baseball operations machine, so much so that Sports Illustrated in 2014 predicted a Houston World Series by 2017. By 2015 they were chosen to have the Best Farm System in baseball by the MiLB. AJ Hinch, with a psychology degree from Stanford, was hired in Sept 2014 and had an early talk with Altuve, "We talked a lot about getting better," Hinch said. "We talked about the 100-loss seasons. We talked about the grind that had taken its toll. I asked him one question: 'Why don't we talk about winning?'" The culture began to change – instead of focusing on the errors of the past they focused on a goal – winning! And win they did – beating out the big boys of baseball history, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

I often think of the story of Bill Job in China whose employees would call him the “best boss in all of China.” Such a description often embarrassed him as he realized that such an accolade is ill-defined and impossible to prove. But the facts are clear – Bill treated his employees with dignity, respect and fairness. He always challenged them to learn new things and be a significant part in building the company. He is a good leader and they love to work for him.

5. Data is important.
Sometimes managers manage from their gut and to be sure some of that is important, but success for Houston also involved data and analytics. Both team management and players bought into the importance of both gathering and using data in decisions about personnel, policies, and practices. The drive toward the use of analytics began with Billy Beane’s Oakland A's and it was used with last years’ Chicago Cubs. Some think Houston is the best at it today.

The May 2014 BAM Global Think Tank Report, How Are We Doing: Measuring the Impact and Performance of BAM Businesses, states “Good metrics are a compass that enables good leaders to stay on track”. This is true upstream and downstream in a business. IBEC uses data generated by many different entities in the planning process; for example, the World Bank’s “Doing Business” data2 on most every country in the world. Such data helps in making decisions in starting and building the BAM company. When it comes to the downstream of measuring success, the obvious financial analytics of P&L, Balance Sheet etc. are important but so are ministry indicators such as self-designed opportunities for living out the gospel with both incarnation and proclamation.

6.It takes balanced talent.
There is good management and bad management. Good management picks good draft picks and Houston did – young guys like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman. They went after a dynamic core of young offensive talent and brought on old-timers who could lead, mentor and be source of wisdom and maturity, like Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran. Young and Old! Untested talent and Experienced Stars! All were important to this balanced team.

Brittany joined a BAM team in Azerbaijan and brought significant skills in coffee roasting and retail. However, she realized that she needed capital developers, managers, operational people, marketers, HR experts, accountants and legal advice. Before long a team emerged and the result after the application of varied skills and much hard work – a roasting company with two successful stores.

Perseverance can be described as ”…steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Three years from 2014 to 2017 can seem like a long time but perhaps Cameron Maybin said it best on winning night. “We battled, we persevered, we never gave up.” Another said that there were no shortcuts; there was plenty of pain.”

Whether it be Wintston Churchill’s famous “never give up” speech to parliament, or a sport like baseball, perseverance is important in the success of a business. It takes long steadfast trial and error to achieve success – in understanding the customer, in perfecting the product and in developing human potential. Never Give Up!

One of the first entrepreneur’s I advised was a fellow named Lee who started a business in a former Soviet Republic. He partnered with a local attorney and within two years the partner took off with all the money in the bank and the business folded. I called him to express my sorrow and asked what he was going to do, thinking he may return to Florida. Lee quickly responded, “I have already gone down the street and rented another office and incorporated another company”. Lee was a persevering BAMer. He never would give up.

Whether it is baseball or another sport or an endeavor such as business in developing unreached countries “for the glory of God” we do well to consider these seven lessons.

1. Not for Sale
2. Doing Business 2018 http://www.doingbusiness.org/

Remembering the goodness of God

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Good Stewardship is critical for Business as Mission

As we begin this week of celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S., I'm thankful for my friend Doug Nichols for sharing these 20 verses and thankful for the freedom to share a few of the things we at IBEC Ventures are grateful for. Blessings over you and your families as we reflect on God's goodness.

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

2. Philippians 4:6-7  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

IBEC continually makes requests for our overseas projects and we thank God for answered prayer - for protection and for success in business, job creation and in making disciples of Jesus.

3. Psalm 28:7  The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.

4. Psalm 106:1  Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, or He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

IBEC is thankful for new clients in the agricultural sector – poultry and soy beans in Africa, rice in Indonesia and nut production in Asia.

5. Psalm 100:4  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

IBEC recently sign an agreement for a continued relationship with a major client – we give “thanks to Him…bless His name!”

6. Colossians 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

7. Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

This is a verse which drives the validity of business for the glory of God, along with the parallel verse in I Cor 10:31.

8. Psalm 95:2  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!

9. Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

How thankful we are for a strong team of consultants and a great gathering for training in August.

10. 1 Chronicles 29:13 And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.

There is no greater reason for gratitude than a new follower of Jesus as reported by a client high in the Himalayan mountains.

11. Psalm 105:1-2  Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works! And give thanks to His holy name.

IBEC is driven by the quadruple bottom line, one of which is to make His deeds known to the unreached of the world.

12. Psalm 69:30  I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

13. 2 Corinthians 4:15  For all things are for your sake, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

“All things” for IBEC means profitable businesses so that jobs are created and people brought out of poverty and injustice.

14. Psalm 9:1  I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

15. Psalm 107:8-9  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

IBEC gives thanks for freedom businesses which bring enslaved women and children out of human trafficking and give satisfaction to thirsty souls.

16. Jeremiah 33:11a  The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting”.

17. Hebrews 12:28  Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.

IBEC is thankful with great gratitude that we operate within a balanced budget as reported at our annual Board meetings this month.

18. 1 Timothy 4:4-5  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

19. 2 Samuel 22:50  Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.

IBEC gives thanks for a foundation which helps IBEC with important projects – we thank them and God!

20. 1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The Barnhart Crane and Rigging story: safeguards for BAM entrepreneurs and owners

Saturday, November 11, 2017
Good Stewardship is critical for Business as Mission

This week I was walking through Magnuson Park along Lake Washington in Seattle, when I came upon some heavy equipment – really heavy equipment - marked “Barnhart”. The largest vehicle there carried a crane capable of lifting 550 tons; that’s roughly equivalent of 275 of my Toyotas, or the weight of two of the largest train locomotives in service today. What is this Barnhart company?

Owner and President Alan Barnhart tells it this way. “It is God’s story and how he uses ordinary people,” and how a “mom and pop operation” working out of the family garage become one of the country’s largest companies known for “picking up and moving heavy things”.

All of us who are followers of Jesus are in full-time ministry

Alan and brother/partner Eric grew up in a Christian home in Memphis, TN and attended a church which believed in the Great Commission. Fellow believers saw that Alan loved Jesus and wanted to follow him, so the default response was that he should “go into full-time ministry”. But early on, by God’s grace and providence, Alan discovered that he was gifted more in business and engineering than in preaching and teaching. It propelled him to the truth that “all of us who are followers of Jesus are in full-time ministry.”

Biblical safeguards

As the brothers assumed ownership of the company from their dad and things began to prosper 1, Alan and his wife, Katherine decided they must study the Bible to understand what it said about money. He came to realize that everything they had comes from God and they are stewards of it all; and they learned to “fear wealth”, because Jesus said it was hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven and Paul said you can take nothing with you when you die.2 Three safeguards were put in place and have guided the two families since then, and are instructive for all entrepreneurs and business owners:
  1. God owns the business; it does not belong to us but we are stewards of it.
  2. They set a lifestyle and salary cap (for them this meant they set their salaries at the mean salary of middle class members of the Sunday School class at church).
  3. Accountability was put into place so that they maintained adherence to the above and put the fruits of the labors into advancing the kingdom of God.
The Barnhart brothers are known for growing a company with excellence of service, commitment to giving, and evident obedience to God’s word. Says, Alan, “…the alternative to consumption is kingdom living.” He uses a military metaphor to explain that “the army cook should not eat better than the troops.” As the company routinely gave away over half of their income to advance the kingdom (as much as $1 million per month), the blessing of God just increased. Today they still operate and grow the business but 100% of it is in a charitable trust.

And their kids did not grow up as rich kids for which the adult children are grateful to their parents today. Alan likes to use tool and toy terminology. A toy is something we would buy for our own pleasure, comfort or fun. A tool is something we buy that God can use in His service.

Tools not toys

As a family, they try to minimize the investment in toys and maximize the investment in tools. One example of an investment is the international travel they have done as a family with the result that their children have seen the needs of the world and what God is doing in other cultures. To them an inheritance for the children is faith, education, abilities and motivation.

The moral of the story for all entrepreneurs and business owners is not the details but the Barnhart principles of stewardship, a lifestyle cap and the appropriate accountability.

1 The company grew 25% a year for 23 years in the 80s and 90s and today is valued at over $250 million and has over 1,000 employees in the US.
2 Matthew 19:23; I Timothy 6:7

Jobs as justice

Saturday, November 04, 2017
Business as Mission promotes justice by creating jobs

For some years I taught at a graduate school on the West Coast. I note that they now have a Master’s degree in Justice with courses such as Theological Foundations, Social Justice, The History of Justice and similar topics. I also note the content of entire conferences on Christian justice with themes related to chasing justice, theology of justice, justice as worship, peacemaking, and Christian community. All good things to be sure – but noticeably lacking – jobs as justice!

According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the Hebrew words tsedeq and mishpat and the Greek dikaiosyne are all used to describe “justice” in the Bible. These words are interchangeable with the words for “righteousness.” Jim Wallis affirms that “…the clear meaning of “justice” is “what is right” or “what is normal” — the way things are supposed to be.”1;

He continues, “One of the clearest and most holistic words for justice is the Hebrew shalom, which means both “justice” and “peace.” Shalom includes “wholeness,” or everything that makes for people’s well-being, security, and, in particular, the restoration of relationships that have been broken. Justice, therefore, is about repairing broken relationships both with other people and to structures — of courts and punishments, money and economics, land and resources, and kings and rulers.”

“Employer-employee relationships could be brought into the idea of shalom as well — fixing what has been unfair, unjust, or exploitative. Economic systems, structures, and interactions can be judged by how they serve or destroy good and healthy relationships.”

The Gallup Corporation surveyed over 150 nations in their renowned World Poll of major issues of life. They wanted to “…discover the single most dominant thought on most people’s minds….” Says CEO Jim Clifton, “Six years into our global data collection effort, we may have already found the single most searing, clarifying, helpful, world-altering fact. What the whole world wants is a good job.”2

Consider the world conditions of today – extreme poverty (30% of the world living on less than $2 a day), unemployment in some countries over 50%, victimization and exploitation such as human trafficking, disease, wars on several fronts, natural disasters and persecution. Job creation will not heal all of this but growing economies creating good jobs brings dignity, opportunity for positive relationships and the ultimate transformation of individuals and communities. God created humans to work and be productive (Gen 1:28), to work heartily ’as for the Lord and not men’ (Col 3:23) and “…shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father…” (Matt 5:16). This all takes place in the marketplace of work.

Many situations where righteousness, justice and shalom are lacking could be corrected with meaningful employment. The poor could be fed and clothed, the powerless would have dignity, disease would be ameliorated, and relationships healed. None of this is perfect, but it is in the direction of what Jesus called righteous living; it would be transformative.
Poverty Cure, a division of the Acton Institute,3 has many resources which promote a good understanding of “what causes wealth?”, a better question than “what causes poverty?” Every modern institution – education, government, and the church consumes wealth. Only one institution creates wealth – business! And wealth creation is a God-given ability (Deut. 8:18).

It is time to move away from so much focus on distribution of wealth in the world and focus on its creation. It is time to move:

  • From aid to enterprise.
  • From poverty alleviation to wealth creation.
  • From paternalism to partnerships.
  • From handouts to investments.
  • From seeing the poor as consumers or burdens to seeing them as creators.
  • From viewing people and economies as experiments to pursuing solidarity with the poor.
  • From viewing the poor as recipients of charity to acknowledging them as agents of change with dignity, capacity, and creativity.
  • From encouraging dependency to integrating the poor into networks of productivity and exchange.
  • From subsidies and protectionism to open trade and competition.
  • From seeing the global economy as a fixed pie to understanding that human enterprise can grow economies.

Justice has many facets and to be sure there are no easy answers. But job creation for sure should be in the mix of answers. Business, free markets and entrepreneurship are keys to prosperity, economic growth and justice for the poor. Let us do all we can to empower the poor with jobs, limit foreign and church “aid” (certainly some is needed in time of crisis), and stimulate small business – and all within the moral context of Biblical justice and the teaching of Jesus.

1 Jim Wallis,How The Bible Understands Justice.
2 Jim Clifton, The Coming Jobs War, p.10
3 Poverty Cure: www.povertycure.org

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